The Prison Policy Initiative (PPI) has been fighting prison-based gerrymandering for years. Prison-based gerrymandering occurs when a state counts inmates as residents from a county, no matter where they actually lived before incarceration. This process allows residents who live in an area with a prison, or prisons, to have an inflated population, and thus have more political clout.
PPI has been successful in helping to eliminate prison-based gerrymandering in several states. PPI claims, “Inspired by our work, Maryland, Delaware, New York, and California passed laws that end prison-based gerrymandering by counting incarcerated people at home for state and local redistricting purposes. New districts based on the improved data have already been drawn in New York and Maryland and upheld by the courts.” To learn more about the Prison Policy Initiative click here to go to website
But the Butner federal prison complex in Granville County North Carolina, claimed 4,500 “residents” in the 2010 U.S. Census count. None of the inmates is allowed to vote. Now, we all know Bernie Madoff is incarcerated there, but he was living in New York when he was arrested, and most of the other 4,499 federal prisoners also resided in other areas of the state and country, but were included in the Granville County population count.
Writing for PPI, Drew Kukuroski explains why prison gerrymandering is harmful, not only in Granville County, but in other counties across the country that use prison population to their advantage, while other counties without a prison in their midst lose out. Kulurowski also reports that some places in America do not include inmates in their population count, and that there is a growing movement to stop prison-based gerrymandering.